Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Italy under siege? An exercise in skepticism

Dear Hannah,

"All good things must come to an end."

When you first hear this as a child you think that it means your ice cream is going to be finished and the sun is going to go down and you'll have to stop playing with your friend.  They never tell you that what it really means is that the first woman you fall desperately in love with is going to stop being in love with you and leave before you know what's going on or that one day you're going to stop having energy and it's never going to come back or that the place you grew up is going to become a hell-hole and a wasteland.

For instance.

I have been told not to go back to Lago Patria.  This small Italian town where I spent the majority of my teenage years is about forty-five minutes north of Naples itself and about ten from a once-resort-town known as Pinetemare.  At the time I lived there at the end of the nineties it was nice by Neapolitan standards, which is to say that it had a minimum of dead dogs on the roads and that the hoodlums you saw standing on the streets eating ecstasy and playing hackey sack were Americans.  One of those hoodlums, rain or shine, was me.

When I say it had "a minimum of dead dogs" what I mean is that Naples is full of dead dogs.  They had a policy of cleaning them off the streets at the end of the century which was essentially this: "do not clean them off of the streets."  As an American this was difficult to digest.  We would call the rotisserie chicken stands lining the roads "roadkill" because roadkill had lost all its meaning and Americans need to use such a great word for something.  

The dead animals were only the beginning.  Trash lined the streets because nobody had been taught the concept of littering; and garbage cans, which were frequently ignored by the apparently dutiless and unpatriotic garbagemen, were set on fire whenever strikes happened and the garbage became unmanageable.  This gave the air a certain scent which could often be described as apocalyptic, and resulted in my Honduran grandpa -- a man from a very backward third-world country, I remind you -- saying upon arrival that someone had been smoking a giant cigar.  In reality it was not so sweet as a cigar, and the winds which blew the burning garbage took turns between this and the smell of the buffalo fields, which could choke a lady but also give the best mozzarella you have ever had in your life.

This much can be said for the air.  When we get to the beaches, which were only a fifteen minute walk from my house, things got interesting.  There was said to be sewage in the water so we never went swimming there; and we knew a boy who had to be tested for AIDS every year because he was barefoot and stepped on a hypodermic needle.  The lake, for which the town was named -- Lago Patria, the lake of the fathers -- and I'm told was apparently down the street from the old house of Scipio Africanus, the general who sacked Carthage, was so full of odd things that it eked a thick yellow piss foam and we never went on it.  We were told there were eels there and I believe it.  Nobody dared to fish in it because we were all of us worried about poison.  Nobody drank water out of the faucet because the water was described by our military as unpotable.

So much can be said for the water.  Now on to the road.  The main passageway in this tiny town was a four-laned mini-highway ingeniously referred to by the Americans as "the four-laner," beginning next to said buffalo field and ending in a beautiful third-world hotel named the Emilia.  Most of the year it was garbage-strewn and the greens were overgrown, and when tourist season came around in the summer the Italians would take pride in it and clean the thing up.  The dogs were there but the crowning feature was when it merged into the freeway and suddenly became lined with miles of prostitutes.  These women, apparently from the darkest regions of the Congo, were said to be imported by the Mafia after being told they were going to be given jobs.  They were given jobs, and shortly after my arrival quite a few of them were gunned down, but not enough to stop business or to dethrone them as the central feature of the road.  

When I say miles I mean miles.  Miles of the ugliest ladies I had ever seen (until I had seen social justice warriors in Seattle), dressed in the gaudiest leopard-print skirts I had ever seen, getting picked up by Johns of indescribably desperate libidos and rotting FIATs and apparently undesired by even the lowest amorous women of the Italian south.  If modern Italy has a sin this is it, and from what I've been told by not only the original Protestants but Catholics, Italy's history with prostitution goes back to the Vatican itself, and was popular with priests and monks until Martin Luther forced the representative of Christ to make things less obvious.  They seem to have had some kind of a regression, not only in the existence of the thing itself, but in the quality of the thing.  

(On a side-note, my sister was robbed on the four-laner, or at least almost robbed, when a man on a moped grabbed her purse, firmly attached to her arm, and dragged her down the street until the purse snapped and she left with pride intact and a lot of gravel in her skin.) 

Despite all this Lago Patria was a beautiful place.  Beautiful beyond words in a way only southern Italy could be.  The restaurants were better than anything you could ever try in your life, for cheaper than the average American had ever seen in his life; the sunsets were gorgeous, and compared to American suburbs housing could be relatively stately.  We lived in a beautiful three-story house with lemon trees and a tall wall and an intercom, on a side-street where old ladies would hang out on the balconies and bring first-class meals if they liked you and people would throw their furniture out the window on New Years Eve (note: people were known to die from this).  The skyline, when it was clear, was gorgeous as the Mediterranean gets.  The beach would be cleaned occasionally and we would spend the night on it getting trashed on Peroni and doing coke off of old bricks.   I got my first kiss from a beautiful blonde at the Hotel Emilia.  I bought espresso and gelato at a gorgeous family-owned cafe (it seemed everything was family owned) called, strangely enough, in English, The Party House.  The first time I saw a naked woman (and a bombshell, I assure you) was on the beach at the end of the four-laner.  There was always pizza to be had from wood-fired ovens and friends to be met once you rode past the fields and solitude to be had if you walked by the lake.  It was filthy by American standards but it made even garbage beautiful.  I've never been able to say this about any other place in my life.      

I've been advised to never go back.  The man who settled us in there lived only across the four-laner and had been there ten years before we arrived.  He went back to relive the dream and found it had ended.  NATO had promised a base nearby and so local developers built massive apartment complexes.  When NATO stalled the developers got desperate, and their desperation coincided with a wave of illegals.  These boat vermin, masses of black and brown Africans who are not even from war torn areas like Libya or Syria, crossing the sea sometimes after forming armed mobs and assaulting the guards in Morocco, swarmed into the place after we left.  It doesn't look like Italy because Italians -- some of the most beautiful and earthy people in the world -- do not want to live there.  The trash, which was an accent on a charmingly delapidated suburb, has grown (in the words of this once-Neapolitan) unmanageable.  The new construction has already been trashed by these hooded barbarians with no pride or gratitude and probably no souls.  The streets are unrecognizable and the crime has become intolerable.  Everything I remember from my childhood, from the first kiss at the Emilia to the grandmas arguing amicably on the narrow streets, has been swept away in a tide of hijabed African waste, to satisfy the morality of a people too cowardly and too traitorous to tell Africa no for the sake of Italia.

Perhaps this is revenge for the prostitutes.  Perhaps this is punishment for Italy's attempt to colonize Ethiopia, and what they are now suffering is equivalent to the United States' own ramifications of slavery and a strawberry-picking for pennies.  But I have an entirely different theory.  I believe this is what happens when you love strangers more than your family and foreigners more than your countrymen; when you have no preference where the strangers come from and what they believe; when altruism is the code you live by and "Christian love" means loving the unlovable; when pictures of dead Syrian children washing up on beaches are your only good argument, and when you believe so strongly in humanity that you hand the future of your country to a bunch of unelected international bureaucrats. 

Some think our ghettos are made by our sins.  I believe ghettos today are much more easily made by our "goodness."  I believe you can sack a town by having a crusade against infidels.  I believe you can sack a town by having a heart for pure savages.   

Your father,
-J       

PS: A strange turn of events since writing the above.  A growing tendency toward skepticism has led me, in spite of multiple negative accounts from multiple people of various backgrounds and nationalities and political preferences, to do some research on my own.  I'm currently waiting on an American girl who lived across the four-laner to write me about the area, as she just happened to be in the area this week; and as I'm too impatient even for this, I decided to look at Google street view myself.

What I found on Google contradicted the reports entirely.  At this moment I'm unable to confirm the date the pictures were taken, but in nearly all things Lago Patria appeared from the photos to be in a state of improvement.  The Italians who lived near me and spent time with me on the streets of Lago Patria have since moved far from the area and were unable to confirm any kind of disaster; and beyond this were unaware that things had gotten any worse in the city.  According to them some areas around it had gotten better; something I find almost incompatible with a neighboring area becoming a wasteland.  But beyond this I find the voice of many Italians growing impatient.  As I said before, Americans visiting the area, who lived there after we left, reported increases in crime and a surge of undesirables.  The Italian family I have in northern Italy report that all of italy is going to waste and that the European Union is trying to destroy it.  Whose word do I trust most?  Are even the pictures I saw a better answer than the testimonies?  These days it is difficult to say.

There are those of us who believe so strongly in loving the foreigner that they refuse to report any foreigner's wrongdoing; and account diversity, regardless of crime or expense or a general delapidation of circumstances, itself as an improvement.  They find no discomfort in the cries of the muezzin and pretend total satisfaction in women who cannot be recognized because they cannot be seen.  This brand of person is all over Europe, and can only be accurately described by the terms of liar and traitor.  Such an example can be recently found in San Francisco, where the authorities are refusing to release videos of mass transit robberies, some involving as many as 40-60 youths at one time, due to the fact that they would encourage the public towards "racism."  They seem to have forgotten that you can only racist if what you're saying is untrue.  They seem to also have missed that Islam is not a race.

But on the other hand there is a tendency in people to overlook the shortcomings of their friends and their families and their lovers.  Obesity is acceptable in our friends and intolerable in a lazy coworker or a demanding customer.  And perhaps the streets of Lago Patria have gotten even cleaner.  Perhaps the pictures I saw were recent, and the vice we saw in the hands of the Italian became a crime in the hands of the African.  Perhaps to an American or an Italian in the 90's the littering was an excusable mole on the face of an Italian dream girl.  Or throwing garbage out the window was like us making fun of our family.  But an army of foreigners has crashed uninvited, and the trash we saw on the street is now thrown by people who are neither white nor Italian nor patriots nor Christians nor welcome.  Instead of having a friend trash our house during a party a robber had come in and wrecked it.  Instead of us making fun of our family a stranger had gone off and mocked them.  The streets were not trashed any more than they had been before.  The trash on the streets was the newcomers.

Whether this is the case or not will be confirmed when I hear from my contact -- or maybe it won't, and I'll believe what I believe when I see it with my own eyes.  Either way the essay will be published with this addendum, and a reminder that what people see is determined by who they are.

UPDATE: I have since heard from my contact, who confirms, in a very brief and cursory drive-through of the town, that in some ways Lago Patria has at least superficially gotten better.  Since there are multiple reports about the crime and the appearance, most of them negative, and there's also the fact that summertime was the only time of the year the place would get cleaned up and that is the time that she went, I'll leave it at this; only adding that other areas of Italy, such as pro-migrant George Clooney's resort town Lake Como, are being infested and ruined by migrants.  Clooney has since had to flee, citing "safety reasons" as the primary reason for running.  No word on whether he's since changed his pro-migrant position.  The pictures of the streets of Lake Como are still beautiful.  The reality is known to the people who live there.

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